Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Best Canceled Race, Ever

I had an assignment to compete in the Buffalo Creek Race, the first mountain bike race of the season here on the Front Range of Colorado, and write a report on it for the Rocky Mountain Sports magazine.  The race was held in early April, in those days, and the weather had been fine the previous three years, with temps in the 70s and sunshine.

This particular year, however, that was not the case.  The day before the race, a storm front moved in and dumped about two feet of snow on the foothills, and a foot in Denver.  So, not only was the race canceled, but I had a half-dozen mountain bike club members with nowhere to go.  They had all signed up to do the race, and each of them was bummed by the cancellation.

So, I called them all up, and suggested that we do a club ride, since the race was off.  I figured we could take some four-wheel drives and make it to the winter gate on Jackson Creek Road, then ride up the road on the packed snowmobile tracks I knew we would find.

Everyone was good to go, and we ended up at the gate, that morning, with fresh snow falling.  Once everyone was on the bikes, we took off up the hill.  The going was slow, and strenuous, but we all had fun.  No one had snow chains or studded tires, and the Surly Pugsley, with its 4-inch wide tires, was not yet dreamt of. But we managed to climb quite a way before deciding to turn back.

That was when the real fun started.  Not only did no one have tires built for the snow, but none of us had disc brakes, either.  Discs were rare in 1996, unlike today, so we were all running rim brakes; v-brakes mostly, though a couple of people were still running cantilevers.

Down the steep hill we headed.   Icy rims rendered our brakes useless, while the steepness of the hill provided constant acceleration.  We found that all we could do was to hold on, wait until the speed got high enough to scare us, then crash into a snow bank in order to stop.

Then, after getting the laughter under control, we would get back on the bike and do it again.

I really wish I had a video of that ride. 

I wrote an article about our snowy adventure, to fill the magazine space left blank by the race cancellation, and submitted it to the editor.  He liked it, and ran it in the next issue.  It was, I think, my most popular piece, ever.  The magazine received a number of positive letters about it, anyway.

I can tell you one thing, for sure:  That ride was a heckuva lot more fun than three laps of that race course ever was!


Wednesday, June 29, 2011


When I worked at Campus, we were a Gary Fisher Bikes dealer.  I decided that I needed a new bike, and I wanted to get a Fisher hardtail frame to build up.  Thing is, I wanted an unpainted frame, because I planned on painting my bike to match Paola Pezzo’s race rig.  She had been known to rock a pink bike, in some races, and I just thought it was cool.

Paola was a hero, of mine.  She had won gold medals at the Olympics, the first two times that Mountain Biking was included as a sport.  Plus, she just displayed that Italian flair for style.

So, I called up Lester, the GF rep, and asked him if he could get me an unpainted frame.

“Why unpainted?” he asked.

I explained what I was planning on doing and added, “If it has paint, I can have it stripped.  I would just like to skip that step, if possible.”

“I’ll see if the Warranty Department has any bare frames,” he said.  “I’ll get back to you.”

A few days later, I got a call from Lester.

“Hey, Jon.  I got you a frame out of the warranty guys,” he told me.

“How much is it going to be?”  I asked.  “I need to budget my build.”

“I don’t  know, yet.  I’ll have to get back to you.  It won’t be expensive, though.  It’s a last-years Mount Tam frame out of the warranty replacement stock…”

“I think you will like it,” he said.

I assured him that I probably would, and went about my business.

As the days passed, I told a few of the guys that I planned on riding a pink mountain bike.  The reaction was almost universally negative.  But, I held to my plan.  It was my bike, after all, not theirs.

The day came when the frame arrived in the UPS shipment.  Lester had said to call him, when it came in, so I did.

“You haven’t opened the box, have you?”


“Don’t open it until I get there.  I’m only about ten minutes away,” he said.

When Lester got to the shop, we did some bike-shop business.  Then, I finally opened up the frame box.

I was stunned.  Inside the box was a hardtail frame, painted in bright pink.  I pulled it out, and I heard one of the other guys say, “Wow.  That’s cool!”

Lester had gotten the Race Department to paint my bike with the same paint that they used on Paola’s bike.  So, it wasn’t just pink, similar to her bike: It was exactly the same pink!

I loved that bike, and I rode it far and hard during the next 5 years.  I had many conversations on the trail about it, too.  Some people approved, others didn’t.  Everyone seemed to notice it, though.

And, I would tell this story to everyone I talked to about the bike.  I was pretty proud of it, and still am.  (I still have the frame, in my storage building.  I’ll probably never let it go.)

I always called it, simply, The Pink Bike, but I could have named it “A Boy Named Sue”, because it certainly made me into a more hardcore rider.  One thing I found was that if you are a man riding a pink bike off-road, you damn well better ride it like you mean it.

And, I did.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Round and Round

One day, when I was 12 or 13 years old, I was home alone.  I wasn't supposed to go anywhere, while no one was home, and it was raining.  So, I was stuck in the house, with nothing much to do.

I wandered out to the carport, and sat on my Buzz Bike.  I slowly rode in a small circle on the concrete.  Then, I sped up a little bit, and leaned into it.  Faster and faster I went, riding on a slab of concrete almost the size of a two-car garage and then...POW!  I was on the ground.

Hmmm.  I got up, and started, again.

Round and round I rode, faster and faster, leaning farther over as my speed increased.  The tire slipped, and I slapped a foot to the ground to avoid falling.  It seemed to me that I could find a sweet spot, and get the tire slipping and still ride.  Powerslide!

So, I kept trying.   I would ride a few rounds and either fall, or slide just a little bit and almost (but not quite) get it.  Over and over, round and round.  I spent the entire afternoon riding my bike as fast as I could in a 10-foot diameter circle.

Eventually, my mom and my sister arrived home from their shopping expedition.  I was still riding nowhere, fast, when they got out of the car.

"How long have you been doing that?"  Joy asked.

"All day,"  I said, skidding to a halt.

"Bored?"  she asked.

"Not any more!"


Monday, June 27, 2011


The town cemetary was not too far from my house in Pataskala, Ohio.  Many times, if I was out on what I call a "bike stroll" (a slow ride to nowhere in particular), I would ride the loop drive through the graveyard, then continue on.

It was a pretty old cemetary, and had been in use for well over 100 years, when I lived there in the late 80s/early 90s.  There were lots of old tombstones which told sad stories of dead infants and spouses lost in the prime of life.

But, the saddest story in the place was relatively new.  In the more recently used section of the cemetary was a grave only a few years old.  The young man interred there was an Eagle Scout, not yet out of his teens when he died.

I don't know what he died of.  The inscription on the stone, unlike a lot of the pioneer gravestones, did not outline the cause of death.  It doesn't really matter, I suppose.  Once you are gone, the cause of death is a moot point.

I always felt a palpable sense of loss when I passed that grave on my bike.  Anyone who has the fortitude and the desire to become an Eagle has my respect.  They tend to become leaders in the community, strong family men, seekers and doers.

I barely made it through a year of Cub Scouts, myself.

Still, even though I was far from as accomplished in the discipline as this late young fellow, I still found myself delivering the Scout Salute from my bike, as I went by.

I may not be as thrifty, brave, loyal or clean as I should be, but I am respectful of those who take such things to heart.  And, I feel some grief when they are gone.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Short-Term Returns on An Investment

I had just bought a new helmet before we left for Moab.  It was a blue Specialized, but I forget the model name.  It doesn't really matter, I suppose.

We rode a lot, on that trip:  Porcupine Rim, Amasa Back, Moab Rim....pretty much all of our usual rides.  Of course, the first ride we took was the Slickrock Trail, as was our tradition on these trips.

There is one short steep little climb on that trail, where you drop down into a little drainage, then climb up a 45-degree slope, with a small step about 10 feet up, then make a hard left turn.  Sometimes, I ride right up that slope like it's a sidewalk.  Other times, I don't.

This was one of the "don't" days, and my tire spun as I accelerated to push over the little step.  I ground to a halt, and moved aside.  One by one, my friends all did the same thing, in pretty much the same spot.  Obviously, there was a slick spot on the rock, for some reason.

Of course, we couldn't just push our bikes by and keep going.  We all had to try again (and again), until we cleaned it.

On my third or fourth try, I lifted the front wheel a little too much, and my bike started to come over backward.  Frantically, I unclipped from my pedals, and tried to catch myself.  My feet touched down on the rock, but I was off-balance, so I stumbled back down the rock, trying to not fall.

I was saved from the fall by the juniper tree which was at the base of the rock.  As I stumbled backward, I smashed into the trunk of the tree, and my head snapped back.  My helmet was impaled by the stub of a broken limb, as numerous other little stubs poked and stabbed at my back.

When it was all over, I had to unbuckle my helmet in order to get away from the juniper.  It took a good tug to get my helmet loose, and I was left with about a half-inch hole in the foam of my brand-new lid.

Oh, well.  I guess I got my money's worth out of it.  I just wish I could have amortized it a bit more...


Saturday, June 25, 2011


Many people think of bikes as being precision machines, akin to Swiss watches or fine German automobiles.  In reality, even the finest bicycle is a compendium of ill-fitting parts, loosely assembled into a rolling mish-mash of frame and components.

Yeah, I may have a bit of a skewed view of things.  But, you would, too, if you had worked in a bike shop service department as long as I did.

The thing is, the individual bits and bobs are nicely made.  STI shifters are watch-like in their complexity and precision.  (They are more Timex than Rolex but, still, watch-like.)  Frames are casrefully assembled, for the most part, and are even sometimes correctly aligned right out of the box.  As a matter of fact, the carbon frames had better be, because there is nothing you do to fix them, if they aren't.

Brake rotors are precision-milled.  Forged cranks can be beautifully finished.

Where the whole thing falls apart, sometimes literally, is in the interface between a component and other components, or between the frame and components.  The bolt-holes in that  beautifully finished crank, and the chainrings that go with it, don't  always line up.  In fact, they rarely do, and the chainrings run out of round because of it.  Both pieces are manufactured to a certain tolerance, but if one is on the plus side of that tolerance, and the other is on the minus side, it becomes noticeable.

Try turning your Dura-Ace or Record crank backward, and watch your rear derailleur as the chain runs through it.  It swings back and forth, slightly, taking up the slack that the out of round chainring produces as it spins.

One great example of the loose tolerances rampant in the bike industry came to light in the mid-1990s.  For a couple of years, TREK matrix rims were apparently being produced on the high side of the diameter tolerance, while Continental tires were on the low side of that same tolerance.  Both were acceptable, and the the TREK rims worked fine with most tires.  The Conti tires worked well with most rims.  But, when fitting Conti tires of that age to Matrix rims of that age, you were more likely to break every tire iron you owned than you were to get the tire onto the rim.

I remember spending over an hour installing Town and Country tires on Val's wheels, one day.  I ended up using the redneck tire iron (8" screwdriver) to finally get the damn things on.  At least I didn't have to worry about the tire rolling off of the rim!  I told her that if she had a flat, she would just have to throw the wheel away, because I really didn't want to try to get those things back off.  (I later did take  the tires off, at a trailhead in Moab, to install knobbies.  The T&C's never went back on that bike, however.) 

I think that kind of stuff is one reason why, perversely, I enjoy working on bikes.  It usually seems closer to blacksmith work than engineering.

Sing along!  "If I had a hammer..."


Friday, June 24, 2011

Take The Good With the Bad

Brad and I decided to go up to his family cabin and spend the night, then ride the Kenosha Pass to Georgia Pass and back ride the next day.  So, we loaded up, and drove up 285.

Once at the cabin, we got settled in, and decided to take a little ride around the area, before the sun went down.  We had no destination, and no schedule, so we headed down the gravel road, and ended up turning off on a fairly rugged Jeep trail.

As we climbed, we both felt good, and the ride went by too quickly.  Eventually, we turned around and headed back.  For some reason, that little impromptu ride-around ended up being one of the most fun rides I ever took.  We were both stoked, when we got back to the cabin, and we really looked forward to the more epic ride, the next day.

The next day came, and my ride mojo took a powder.  I had one of those days where I just couldn't ride a bike.  I couldn't get in the groove for any kind of technical riding, and the altitude just plain-ole kicked my ass.  What a difference a day made.

Still, I considered the weekend as a win.  That first short ride more than made up for the misery of the longer ride.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Have Some Water!

One time, as I was riding the Mustang Loop (I believe,  though it may have been Longhorn), at White Ranch, I took a little spill.  I was riding down a pretty steep slope, at the bottom of which is a 90 degree turn and an immediate climb.  So, I was trying to carry a little bit of momentum, hoping to rail the turn and get a little head start on the uphill.

There is a spot, on that downhill, where the trail runs through a v-shaped depression in an exposed granite rock face.  As I entered into that, I hit a loose rock just right, and ended up going over the bars.  I had on gloves and a helmet, but, since the temperature was about 95 degrees F in the shade, I was wearing a sleeveless jersey and bike shorts.  I had a lot of exposed skin on the old limbs.

Falling in that particular spot, in those particular clothes, was akin to taking a tumble down a flight of stairs made from wood rasps.  Every sliding bounce I took (and there were a few) abraded a little more skin from one, or all four, of my appendages.

When I finally came to a rather abrupt and painful halt, I instinctively turned to look uphill and see where my bike had ended up.  Just as I turned my head, my water bottle (which had ejected from the cage) hit me square in the face and knocked my glasses off.

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.  Eventually, I just got everything together and continued riding.  I figured that, if nothing else, I had gotten some good footage for the "owie video".

I had more scabs than a railroad strike, for a couple of weeks.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Psst! Hey, Buddy, You Need a Tube!

I had driven over to White Ranch Open Space, in my 1975 International Scout II, to do a quick, hard mountain bike ride.  I liked to ride there because, if I parked at the bottom of Belcher Hill and rode to the top (4.4 miles, 1740 feet of elevation gain) and then did a couple of the loop trails on the way back down, I could get quite a workout in a couple of hours, and 12 or 15 miles of riding.

Belcher Hill Trail was where I had been stalked by a mountain lion, a couple of years previous to this ride, but I wasn't too worried. I had never seen a big cat in the area during the summer, and I didn't encounter one on this ride.

No, the ride was excellent.  The climb was grueling, the loops were challenging, and I had enough fun to somewhat justify the 100 miles round-trip drive from our house in Elizabeth.  (I get very little mountain biking days in, now that I try to not drive unless necessary.)

I got back down to the parking lot dirty and tired, but unscathed.  I had experienced no huge crashes, or unfortunate dismounts.  Everything had gone swimmingly.

I rolled into the gravel lot on my S-Works M2, and made a big sweeping turn in order to end up behind the Scout, so that I could hang the bike on the hitch rack.  I coasted up to the rear bumper, almost too slow to balance, and nudged my front tire against the rear bumper, rather than hitting the brakes.

Psssssst!  Immediately, my front tire was flat!

I got off the bike, and I had to laugh.  Somewhere on the trail, I had picked up a pretty good sized Goathead thorn, between the knobs of the tire, but it hadn't penetrated the tube.  When I nudged the tire up to the bumper, I hit it right on the stupid thorn and drove it through the tire casing and into the tube, like I had driven a nail with a hammer.

I hung the bike on the rack, flat tire and all, and headed home.  I was just happy that I had the flat right there, rather than on the trail.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011


If you ever watch the motorcycle stunt videos, you are bound to see many examples of the "stoppie", or "nose-wheelie".  It is de rigueur for those guys, and it is always a crowd pleaser.

That was a fact in 1974, as well.

I was still a few months away from getting my first motorcycle, and well on my way to destroying my sister's 10-speed, one day when I found this out first-hand.  I was hanging out with some kids over on Vine Street, when I accidentally lofted the rear wheel on the 10-speed, and rode for a few feet before it dropped back to the ground.

Everyone seemed impressed, so I decided to try it again.  I rode a few feet, grabbed the front brake and lifted the rear wheel, a little higher this time, and let go of the brake.  Amazingly, I managed to go 10 or 15 feet before the rear wheel came back down.

I couldn't ride a wheelie to save my life, but this "stoppie" thing was coming easy.  The other kids were impressed, and I was having a good time entertaining them.

Of course, third time's the charm...

I'm sure you can guess what happened on the third go-around.  I have to say, it seemed even more entertaining to the peanut gallery than the actual trick.

Always the entertainer...


Monday, June 20, 2011

It Wasn't Me

...but, I knew who it was.

I rolled up to the high school on my Suzuki GS-400, and parked near the band room door as usual. 
As I walked in, I noticed a group of people standing near my locker.  The band room, and the hall where my locker was located, sat about four feet lower than the main building, and there was a short, steep set of steps connecting the two levels.

As opened my locker, I noticed a black mark on the floor tiles, near the middle of the hallway.  I recognized it, immediately, as a skid mark from a bicycle tire.

Of course, it helped that I had talked to the rider who made that skid mark, the day before.  After finding an open door, he and another kid had ridden their bikes in and spent a heady 20 minutes, or so, racing through the halls and skidding around the corner.  He had told me that he ended up jumping his bike off of the steps, and skidding almost to the doors at the end of the hall before he was able to stop.

I thought that he was  making that part up, but there on the floor was proof of the stunt.

About a half-hour later, I got the call over the intercom.  "Jon the principal's office!"

"What now?"  I thought.  Was I going to catch hell about parking on the covered area by the door, again?  Or, was something I had done and forgotten about catching up to me?  I had done the dance so many times that I rarely even listened to the music, any more.

I got to the office and not only was Larry Love waiting for me, but his flying monkey Fred Enis was there as well.

"We figure you have something to do with all of the tire marks in the halls," Fred started.

I laughed.

"What's so funny?" Larry spat at me.

In case you haven't figured it out, I was not a favorite with the administration.

"I haven't ridden a bicycle in a year and a half,"  I said.  "If I had gotten in here, there would be some bigger tracks on the floor."

I had been in trouble with these clowns so many times, I no longer even cared.  Familiarity breeds contempt, and I was very familiar with these two.

So many times it was like this:  They needed someone to blame, and there I was.

"Well, do you know who's responsible?" Larry asked.

"Nope," I lied.  "I can just tell you it wasn't me.  Ask my mom, I was at home on Saturday."

"How did you know it was Saturday?"  Fred piped up, in full Hercule Poirot mode.  "We didn't tell you what day it happened."

"I heard Snow say that, in the hall," I said.  Snow was our nickname for the janitor, Mr. Flurry.  I won't tell you what we called Fred Enis...

We all stood there, for a minute, and Larry finally sent me back to class.  When I sat back down in my desk, Taylor asked me what it had all been about.

"Just taking the heat for you,"  I said.

The mystery riders never were found out, even though about half the student body knew who they were.

I just wish I had been riding bicycles, as well as the motorbike, at the time.  Sounded like a lot of fun, to me.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Strange Light of Darkness

Three riders in the forest, deep into the dark of night.  Three mountain bikes racing down the trail, between trees, over rocks , up and down the ripples in the landscape.  Three riders, two non-functioning lights, the third rider following behind and lighting the way.

Shadows dance on the trees along the trail as the riders flow down the trail.  Two riders in front of the only light, shadows dancing, jousting, kung-fu fighting along as the riders hold tight to the grips and plow on through the dark.

Mid-1990s lighting technology left much to be desired.  Low output made worse by short burn times combined to leave many a rider lost in night.

But these three persevere, six eyes drinking in the light meant for two.  Tires slip, breath rasps and still, the shadows dance through the woods, until, finally they all gather together at the trailhead.

The night has been beaten.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

My Time In The Diplomatic Corps

I rode my bike to work, quite a bit, but not every day.  My commute was a 29 mile round trip, and my house sat 1400 feet higher than the shop.  So, I had about a 45 minute commute to work, and a 1-1/2 to 2 hour commute home.  Three or four days a week was a lot of commuting, for me, and I didn't do that often.

I didn't commute too much, once we started riding over to Park Meadows to have breakfast at the original Denver location of Kaladi Brothers coffee.  The 25 miles back and forth for breakfast seemed like enough of a ride, coupled with a 10 hour workday.

What was a constant, whether commuting or breakfasting, was the fact that I constantly tried to be an ambassador for the shop.  With Scott's blessing, I carried two or three tubes, covering the common sizes you see on the trails around here, and a patch kit.  Along with those, I also carried business cards.

Whenever I would happen upon someone who had a flat tire, I always asked if they needed a hand.  Many, many times the rider had either no supplies or equipment  to fix the flat, no knowledge of how to use the flat kit they did have, or neither.  I would stop, fix their flat, note any other adjustments or repairs that they might need, and hand them a business card.

If they offered to pay, I would ask them to come to the shop to do so, so that we could ring it up.  Of course, that also had the effect of getting them into the shop, where they might see something they would like to have.

Maybe 50% of the people I helped out actually showed up at the shop, later.  But, I know that we sold quite a few bikes to people I had helped out, or who knew someone I had helped.  So, for the cost of a few tubes, and maybe being late to work a couple of times a month, we got a pretty good return.

Thing is, I still do the same thing, even though I don't work at a shop.  I just hate to see someone stranded on the bike.

Jonny G, Bike Ambassador...


Friday, June 17, 2011

First Timers

I like to take people to Moab, for their first time mountain biking there.  I can be the tour guide, and keep them from getting lost, while watching them react to the place the same as I did, over 20 years ago.

One day, at the bike shop, Nick and Per were talking about the fact that neither of them had ever been to Moab.  They were 18 years old, and life was passing them by.  I  told them to clear it with their parents, and I would take them for a 3-day weekend.

So, a couple of weeks later, we loaded up in my 1994 Dodge Ram 1500 (I miss that truck).  There were three of us, five bikes (Per's, Nick's and my mountain bikes, a demo Gary Fisher Sugar, and the 3-speed mtb I had built up to demonstrate to them that you only really needed a high, middle and low gear to ride trails like SlickRock) plus all of our camping equipment.

On the way by, we stopped at the Loma Exit, outside Fruita, and rode the Mary's Loop and Lion's Loop trails.  Then, we headed on to Moab.  Once there, we set up camp, and went riding on the SlickRock Trail.

At one point, we were playing Follow the Leader, each of us taking turns leading and trying to ride something the other two couldn't/wouldn't.  I had the lead, and I rode over to a twenty-foot drop that I had ridden once, a couple of years earlier, following Tony C.

When you drop over the edge of this particular feature, you ride about a bike's length on a ledge which sits at about a 45 degree angle.  Then, you drop off of that, to a rock face which is just a tad steeper.  As you make the transition, you freefall for about a bike length and a half before your wheels contact the rock, and you can zoom on down to the run-out.  You can't go too fast, or you'll jump all the way down to the bottom.  Go too slow, and your bottom bracket will catch on the rock lip and dump you forward.

I dropped in, and I heard Nick go, "Whoa!"

I stopped at the bottom of the run-out and yelled up to him, "I guess I win, if you don't ride down!"

Of course, being 18, he couldn't let an old man of 38 outdo him.   He rolled back a little, then rode forward and  off the edge.  He got to the drop-down, and tensed a little too much, leaned a little off-vertical and skidded as he touched back down on the rock.  The bike slipped out from under Nick, and he landed on his left buttock and slid all the way down to the bottom as though he was on a playground slide.

"AAAAAAHHHGGGHHH.  It burns with the heat of a thousand suns!" he yelled, causing both Per (at the top of the wall) and me to burst out laughing uncontrollably.

Nick pulled his shorts down, and his butt looked like someone had spanked him with a cheese grater.  Naturally, I took a photo of it, which got hung up with the "1000 suns" quote attached to it, in the service area of the shop, once we got back.

It was quite a trip.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Boom Tube

In bicycle design, a boom tube is an oversized frame tube, which typically replaces two of the three traditional tubes of a diamond frame.  An example of a boom tube frame would be a Klein Mantra.  Another use of the term is to describe the tube which connects the two bottom brackets of a tandem.

One day, while working at the shop, we accidentally created another definition for for the term.

We were working along, and one of the guys casually wondered, out loud, how big a 26" mountain bike inner tube would get if you inflated it outside of a tire.  Always the (mad) scientist, I decided it was a worthy experiment.  So, I went to the box of take-off tubes (many people swapped to Slime-filled tubes, or some such, when buying a bike), and pulled out a presta-valve tube.

I pushed the presta chuck of the air hose onto the tube, and squeezed the handle.  As the tube inflated, we figured it would get pretty big, then split and deflate.  And, it did get pretty big.

When it's diameter reached my height, I decided I didn't want to hold it.  I took a toe-strap, and strapped the filler handle of the hose down, and stepped back.  The tube continued to grow.

And grow...

And grow...

I think it must have been seven feet in diameter when it popped.  And, it wasn't a simple "split and deflate" scenario.  It sounded like a bomb went off, when the tube finally ruptured.  Talcum powder, from inside the tube, billowed out and a haze hung in the air.  Along with the ringing in our ears, the smoky haze added to the bomb-like effect.

All five us who were watching it, fully expecting it to blow, had jumped in surprise at the amount of noise it made.  We heard some exclamations of surprise from the sales floor, through the door of the service area, and some nervous laughter.

About 30 seconds later, as we were all marveling at the results of our little experiment, Scott walked in, dabbing Coca Cola off of his shirt with a shop rag.  He had been taking a sip of his Coke, in his office, when the tube exploded.

He wasn't watching the tube, waiting for the boom.  Hence, he had jumped a bit more than we five had.

It was politely requested that we refrain from such behavior, after that moment in time.

In no uncertain terms, that is.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011


I am not a big fan of the bolt-on kid seats on bikes.  I know that lots of people, all over the world, use them and have good safe family fun, but they really just scare me.  Maybe if I didn’t have such a propensity for crashing, I would feel different.

I always preferred selling trailers to the people who wanted to take toddlers along.  I know that some are pretty expensive, but I always thought the extra cost would be worth it.  I’ve seen someone flip a Burley trailer on its side, only to have the 4 year-old inside call out, “Do it again, Daddy!”

I once got a bit of a reprimand, from  Scott, for down-selling the seats a little too much.  A lady had come in to look at kid seats, and trailers, and she was leaning toward purchasing  the bolt-on seat.  She asked me what I thought.

“Well,” I said, “I would get the trailer.  I am not comfortable with carrying a kid on the back of the bike.”

“But, I would put a helmet on him,” she said.

“Try this,” said.  “Put his helmet on him…”

“Yeah,” she said.

“Strap him into his high-chair…”

“Mmm-hmmm,” she nodded.

“Then push the chair over.”

She gave a little gasp, and went wide-eyed.  Scott, who had overheard the conversation came scurrying over, all apologetic that I had scared her, telling me that I was getting too graphic, etc.

The lady bought a trailer, though.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Thin Blue Line

"I'm not sure," she said.  "Does it come in blue?"

"Well,"  I replied,"  it comes in a kind of purpley color..."

"What difference does the color make?" her  oyfriend interjected.  "If you like the bike, why would the color matter?"

Indeed, what would it matter?   Why do shirts come in different colors?  Any cloth draped over your torso serves the same purpose.  Why would the shade of faded jeans matter?  Denim is denim, after all.

I looked at him.  I looked at her.

He was looking at bikes:  at performance on the trail, weight, suspension travel...She was looking at a bike; something which would telegraph her individuality, and her taste, while allowing her to enjoy herself out in the woods.

"I tell you what," I said, "I have another model in the back.  It's last year's, and it's a little less expensive.

I looked her in the eye.  "It's a nice navy blue."

Long story short:  She bought the blue bike.  And, she became a hell of a rider and ended up outgunning the boyfriend, who broke up with her because his ego was a bit deflated.

His loss, not hers.

Why do people act like color is not important?  If it wasn't, every vehicle would be white.  White is the easiest color to apply in a smooth finish, and it's easy to touch up.

But, we all have preferences in colors.  Dark, light, earth tones, whatever.  If you dig the looks of the bike, you will enjoy the bike that much more.  Huffy, and Pacific and all those guys understand it.  Go to Toys-R-Us or WalMart  and check out the paintjobs on the BSOs.

People like pretty bikes.  Even better if the bike, itself, is a nice ride.


Monday, June 13, 2011


"I don't know how you wear those full-fingered gloves," he said, looking at my hands.

"I don't know how you don't," I replied.

"It's 90 degrees out!"  he said, as he rode on by.

I'll go on 100-mile rides without a helmet, but I wear gloves every time I ride a bike anywhere.  It's rare that I will even take a test ride around the block without them.  And, I haven't worn the classic half-fingered gloves in years.

Part of the reason is that I always wear gloves on a motorcycle.  So, handlebars feel normal to me through a layer (or more) of leather and cloth.  The other is that I've seen the damage that sharp rocks and asphalt can do to one's hands in the middle of a crash.

I was riding down the road at Waterton Canyon, one time on a club ride, when the guy I was riding next to suddenly caught his wheel in a rut and went straight down.  He was holding the bar-end extensions on his mtb bar, and the backs of his fingers took the whole force of his fall.  The impact on the sharp, granitic gravel took most of the nail off of his pinkie finger, and ripped chunks of flesh off of the two fingers next to it.

He was wearing the half-finger gloves.

So, I spend the summer with what must be the ultimate "farmer's tan".  Since I tend to wear long sleeves, pushed part -way up my arm, and full gloves, I get a burn/tan on about 5 or 6 inches of my forearm.  My hands and the rest of my arms stay lily-white, for the most part.

But, I usually manage to keep the skin on my knuckles.

Unrelated Business:  Today is my Momma's birthday.  Happy Birthday, J.R.!


Sunday, June 12, 2011


One day, Bill Turner and I decided to ride up Waterton Canyon, and continue onto the Colorado Trail, before work.  I hadn't known Bill for too long then, but we had been riding together quite a bit, since none of the other guys was willing to get up early enough to get a real mountain ride in before opening the shop.  With all of the driving back and forth that was required, we had to meet at the shop at 6:00 AM, to have time to get back before opening time at 10:00.

Bill had a rack on his steel StumpJumper, with a rack bag attached to the top.  In it, he carried all of his tools, patches, food, etc.  I had stopped running with a rack by then, but it reminded me of the "old days" (two years earlier) when I did.

We hit the Colorado Trail, and climbed past the intersection with the Roxborough Loop Trail, and continued down the other side of the ridge  Not long after the first creek crossing, I saw something lying on the trail.  As I pulled closer, I could see that it was a man's wallet.

I stopped, picked up the wallet, and put it in my jersey pocket, then took off again.  I was trying to catch up with Bill, to tell him to watch out for someone who looked like they were searching for something on the trail.  I was hoping that we could reunite the wallet with its owner.

Bill was waiting at the top of the next rise, drinking from his water bottle.

"I was just about to turn around and see if you had a flat," he said.

I explained to him what had happened, and told him we should be watching for whoever had lost the wallet.

"Is there any ID in it?"  Bill asked.

I pulled the wallet out of my pocket, and opened it up.

"Yeah, there is, " I said.  "It belongs to some dude named William R. Turner..."

We both looked at Bill's rack trunk, and noticed that the top was partially unzipped.

I tossed his wallet to Bill, and he put it back in the bag.  This time, he made sure that his bag was zipped.

"You probably didn't even feel me pull it out of there, did you?"  I joked to Bill.

Later, at the shop, I overheard Bill telling one of the other employees that I had somehow gotten his wallet out of his bag while we were riding.  I never corrected him.  If he wanted to think I was that devious (and talented), I figured I'd let him!


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Where Are You Calling From?

The ride, itself, is a story for another day.  But, it had left me in a mess.  I was bleeding from some pretty deep cuts (and road rash), I had a concussion, and my right thumb was dislocated.  Luckily, I hadn't ridden alone, that day, so I was able to get home from Colorado Springs to our house in Elizabeth, with Bill driving.

Bill walked in with me, made sure Val was there, then hit the road as quickly as possible.  I think he was afraid that Val was going to kill him for bringing me home in such sorry shape.

"Are you okay?" Val asked.

"I think I need to go to the doctor," I said.

At that point, two things caused Val to panic.  One:  I never wanted to go to the doctor.  Two:  I was apparently slurring my words pretty badly, as a result of the blow I had taken  to the head.

So, Val got on the phone and called the emergency number on our insurance card.  It was 7:00 PM, and she wasn't sure which Emergency Room we should go to.

I heard her go through the basic information; name, insurance account number, nature of injury, etc.

Then she paused and said, "What do you mean, 'Where am I calling from?'  I'm in my dining room!"

Obviously, the lady wanted to know what area of the county we were in, so that she could send us to the closest E.R., but Val was a little panicky, at that point.

Even through the haze of the head injury and the pain of everything else, I got a little chuckle from her reply.


Friday, June 10, 2011

Sometimes It's Good to Wear Glasses

Why do brake levers have those knobs on the end?  Just as the one-eyed bike mechanic.

I was working on a customer's bike, at the shop, and had it hanging on the repair stand, as usual.  I replaced the brake cables and adjusted the tension, cut the cables to length, and then turned to adjusting the rear derailleur.  I hadn't capped the brake cables with those little crimp-on cable-ends, yet, but I figured I'd do it when I got through with the derailleur.

"Hey, Jon, look at this!"

I turned to look, and the end of the rear brake cable skittered across the lens of my glasses and stabbed me in the cheek.  Blood flowed fairly freely, as I jumped back, startled and confused.

Man, that hurt!

That was when I started making it a rule to cap those stupid cables as soon as I trimmed them.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Wheel Sizing

One of the hard things to explain to customers in the bike shop was wheel and tire sizing.  A wheel that takes a 26x1-3/8" tire will not accept a 26x1,75" tire.  Some 26x1-3/8" tires will fit on a Schwinn wheel, and some English roadsters, but not on any other wheel.  And, a 27" wheel is not 27" in diameter.

And what the heck is a 29", anyway?  The 29" tires fit on 700c rims (the same size as modern road bikes).

Tire sizing is not based on the size of the rim, as they are on motor vehicles.  Tire size is the measurement from the ground to the top of the tire, along a vertical line.  In other words, it is the outside rolling diameter of a fully inflated tire.

A 700c wheel is 622 mm in diameter.  A  700x45c tire on on a 700c rim measures 28" in diameter, and that is how they are referred to in Europe.  (Confused yet?)

A 700x2.35" tire mounted on a 700c rim measures 29" in diameter, and that is where the mtb tire size comes from.

There are a number of 26" wheel sizes (650b, 650c, mtb/bmx/cruiser which are all the same diameter, and plain-ol' 650 which is the old Schwinn S-7 size).  All of these wheels, with the "standard" sized tire will have a nominal rolling diameter of 26", even though the rims are all a different size.

Large mountain bike tires exist for the 650b rim, and they produce a 27.5" diameter!  Uuhhh...!

A couple of years ago, I bought a 1962 Hercules 3-speed, and went to buy tires for it.  Thinking that it had the English roadster size wheel, based on the tire width, I bought the S-7 Schwinn tires.  Of course, when I got home, I discovered that the wheels were actually the 26x1-3/8" rims.

Another few years working with bikes, and I might get this straight.

This past winter, Tony asked me if I would install some cool white tires on his Schwinn 3-speed.  I told him I would, so he rode the bike over and brought his new tires.  Of course, he had S-7 rims and 26x1-3/8" tires...

So, a trade was instigated, and I ended up with a set of white tires, in the correct size for my Hercules, and Tony rode home on my gumwall tires, which were the correct size for his bike.

Sing along, " The wheels on the bike go round and round, round and round, round and round..."


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"Race Face" is No Excuse For Bad Manners

I was pretty spent, halfway through the third and final lap of a Winter Park Race Series cross-country race.  "Cross-country" was something of a nisnomer, actually, since we were riding multiple laps of an 8-1/2 mile loop.  We weren't really crossing anything, if you think about it.

Anyway, I was riding along on a flat straight portion of the course, up on the mountainside, looking forward to the big, curvy downhill back to the Start/Finish are.  I was slowly catching up with a female racer in front of me, and no one had passed me for a while.  But, I could hear a rider approaching from behind, so I moved slightly to the right, and he squeezed by me on the left.

"Hey," I said as he went by.  I have a bad habit of talking to other racers in the middle of a race.  Some people think that's a sign that I don't take racing seriously.

Those people are right.

The other rider gave me a glare, and continued on his way.  "Race face", they call that.  The pros exhibit it due to their intense concentration on the task at hand, and I understand that.  Those guys are racing for money, making a living. 

I'm not, and neither was the guy passing me. And, he really wasn't that much faster than I, the guy who doesn't take it seriously.  We both caught up to the gal in front of us, and she was obviously struggling.  She was a little slow, but not because she wasn't trying.  It looked like she was probalbly in mid-bonk.

I don't want to type what he yelled at her about getting the F out his GD way, before referring to her by a 4-letter word which begins with C.

She moved over, and he muscled past her, still hurling obscenities at her.  That took away a lot of the tiredness from my legs., and I stood up to sprint around the girl.

Mr. Pottymouth was heading for the downhill, a few yards ahead of me, and I poured on the coals.  By the time he reached the point where the trail headed downhill, I was right on his tail. 

The trail dropped steeply for about 25 yards, then went around a switchback turn.  As he entered the turn, I dove in under him, pulled beside him, and bumped him off the trail with my shoulder.  He rolled and tumbled down the steep slope outside the turn, and I continued on.

Later on, after the race was over, I went into the ski lodge to use the bathroom.  Who should be coming out, as I walked in, than Mr. Pottymouth, himself.

"Hey," he said.  "Are you the guy who bumped me off the trail?"

"Yeah," I said, tensing for the fist fight.  "I didn't like how you talked to that girl."

"Yeah, I guess I was a little out of line," he said, and I relaxed.  "I just really get into the racing."

He headed to the door.  "Nice pass, though," he said to me, over his shoulder.

We ended up having a couple of beers at the beer tent, and talking bikes.  He was a pretty good guy, without the Race Face.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Stephen King Must Have Been Watching

It was September of 1979, when I was freshman at UTM, in Martin, Tennessee.  One of my across the dormitory hall neighbors, Kyle Williams, and I were out on a bike ride.  We had ridden out of town on the Highway 45 bypass, then meandered our way through some country roads back to town.  At this point, we were heading through a neighborhood, taking a shortcut to hit the bypass, again, to complete our loop back to campus.

I was riding my old Triumph ten-speed, and Kyle had a Schwinn of some sort, as I recall.  None of us had ever seen or heard of a mountain bike, at that time.  (I often wonder how differently my college career might have gone if I'd had a mountain bike to keep me occupied, rather than a pool hall.)

Anyway, Kyle and i were cruising along at a conversational pace, discussing what to do when we got back to the dorm.  We knew we needed to eat, we were just trying to figure out what and where.  Ahead of us, on the step of a house to our right, I spotted a St. Bernard dog, lying peacefully in the sun, panting happily along the way dogs do when nothing much is going on.

"I'd kind of like to have a St. Bernard," I told Kyle, as we drew nearer to the big dog. "They are nice and friendly."

Just then, the dog's head swiveled around and he caught sight of us.  Hair raised up on his shoulders, and he showed his teeth as he lumbered to his feet.

"He's not going to chase us us, is he?" Kyle asked me, in disbelief as the the big damn dog started loping toward the road.

"I've never seen one chase anybody," he continued, as the dog let out a booming bark and began sprinting toward us.

"Let's get the hell out of here!" I yelled, as I stood up and sprinted. 

I wasn't too worried about being able to outrun the dog.  We were on ten-speeds, and he was huge lumbering oaf of an animal.  Still, though, as we sprinted away the dog seemed to be gaining on us.

 "Go, go, go!" I yelled at Kyle, as I passed him.  I knew that we only had a few hundred yards before the road headed steeply downhill.  That would let us get up some speed that even the hell-hound on our trail couldn't match.  But, that would come with a potential price.

At the bottom of that hill, where the road leveled off, there was a railroad crossing with some pretty rough tracks.  Immediately after that was a signaled intersection with U.S. 45.  We could only hope that the dog would abandon his chase at the top of the hill.

Within seconds, we were blasting down the steep hill, and the damn dog was still in full-on pursuit mode!  I scanned the highway, left and right, and didn't see any traffic.

"Jump the tracks!" I screamed at Kyle, when it looked he might be reaching for his brakes.

We hit the slight incline to the railroad grade, probably doing 30 miles per hour on 1-1/8" tires, and launched ourselves over the rough tracks.  The landing was sketchy as all get-out.  I really expected my tires to explode, or my wheels to collapse.  But, we both made the landing without augering in Six-Million Dollar Man-style.

Then, we blew across the highway, running the red light, very grateful that no one had seen fit to come roaring down the road in a pickup truck as we went across.

I glanced back over my shoulder to see the dog standing still, on the railroad crossing, baying his lungs out at us as we rode away screaming like little girls.

"I have never seen a St. Bernard go after anybody like that!"  Kyle panted as we coasted along toward the bypass, trying to get our heart rates to slow down below redline.  "He must have had rabies, or something."

"Yeah," was all I managed to say.  I don't think I had ever been so scared of a dog in my entire life.

When we got back to campus, no one would believe out story.

"St. Bernards are friendly and gentle," Johnny said.  "They would never attack anyone."

Two years later, in September of 1981, Stephen King published Cujo.  Soon after, someone asked me if I had read it.

"I not only read it, I lived through it," I told them.

Stephen King owes me and Kyle about a million dollars each, I think...


Monday, June 6, 2011


When I was working in the shop, back in the 90s, manufacturers gave away a lot of stickers and t-shirts shop employees.  The theory, of course, was that we would stick the stickers on our bikes or tool boxes, our cars, whatever and wear the t-shirts while working in front of the customers.  It was viral advertising before we had ever heard the term.

Of course, it didn't always turn out like the companies hoped.  We cut the stickers apart to spell odd, sometimes rude, humorous things.  "ZOOM" stickers always got reversed to "MOOZ", for some reason.  And, for some reason, "MOOZ" always cracked us up.

SPECIALIZED  helmets inevitably became SPECIAL ED, and I won't tell you what we made out of DIAMONDBACK.  But, it fell into the rude category.

It was always kind of funny to see the disappointed looks on the sales reps faces when they saw our handiwork. But, they still loaded us up with stickers and t-shirts when they came around.

I guess any publicity is good publicity...


Sunday, June 5, 2011


When I was eight years old, the best television show I had ever seen or could conceive of premiered on NBC.  Then Came Bronson starred Michael Parks (who also sang the theme song, which was a pretty big radio hit), and followed the "lone hero walks the Earth and has adventures" model, plot-wise.

Bronson rode a red Harley Sportster, sported brown suede boots, and was just generally cool.  Occasional shots in the series would show him blasting down the highway, standing on the pegs (very dramatic), which was something that had never occurred to me.  I always associated standing up with climbing hills, or sprinting, on a bicycle.  Motorcycles allowed you to do both, sitting down.  So, seeing my hero ride his motorcycle in what I considered "bicycle style" thrilled me.

One day, my sister and I got permission to take our bikes somewhere (I honestly don't remember where we went) on Shacklett Drive, in the opposite direction of the Dead End.  That was exciting, in a way, to get to ride where I was normally forbidden. 

We were heading out to Daytona Beach, Florida, the next day for a family car-vacation, so we had to be home at a specific time to finish getting ready for the trip.  The time came, and we headed home.

 Coming home from that direction, we would descend the shorter, steeper side of the creek cut on Shacklett.  I was looking forward to getting up some speed, then coasting uphill to our driveway.  At the top of the hill, I stood up and sprinted as hard as I could go, standing on the pedals.

"Look at meee!  I'm Bronson!"  I yelled, as I winged my way down the hill.

Then, when I passed the end of the Watson's driveway, almost at the very bottom of the hill, I hit some gravel which had washed out onto the road.  What followed was the thing that motorcycle riders refer to as a "tank-slapper":  My handlebars shimmied wildly back and forth as I went into a high-speed wobble.  The tall, wide ape-hanger handlebars on my bike didn't help things, and I went down hard in the middle of the road.

I was tangled up in my bike as I bounced and slid down the pavement, over more of the gravel from the Watson's drive, and finally ended up in a heap in the middle of the street.  Joy skidded to a halt, beside me.

"Are you okay?"

"I'm fine.  Just go on and leave me alone!"  I said.  Pain and fear and embarrassment all combined, as I lay there, and I really just didn't want anyone to look at me.

Joy went to the house, and told Momma and Daddy I'd be along, shortly.  Of course, when I finally did drag my bruised and bloody carcass in the door, all hell broke loose.  Joy got a spanking for leaving me behind, even though both of us begged for mercy.  I told them I  had sent her on, but Momma and Daddy were of the opinion that she should have stayed to help me, anyway.

I couldn't straighten my elbow, which was swollen and bloody, and my knee looked like it had caught a shotgun blast.  So, I was bundled into the car, and I got my first two-wheeler related trip to the Emergency Room.

Once there, at the ER, the elbow was pronounced unbroken, and received a big band-aid.  My knee got a nice big dressing with a large yellow blob of something (a "butter-bandage", the doc called it), then it was wrapped in about ten yards of gauze to help protect it from bumps.

The next day (and the next few days after that) was a bit uncomfortable, in the back seat of the family car.  If you think kids complain about siblings on a normal road trip, try having one half-mummified in bandages sitting in the back seat.

I still feel sorry for Momma and Daddy, on that trip.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Another Good Idea

I got my first skateboard in 1967, when I was six years old.  It was a pretty crude affair, consisting of a length of board with with the two halves of a metal-wheeled skate bolted to each end.  Daddy and I had seen a magazine picture of someone skateboarding, and I told him I wanted to try it.  So, he went out to the garage and made me a board.

It was a bumpy ride, to say the least.  The 18-inch long 2X4 board didn't have a lot of flex (at least with my scrawny 40 pounds on it), and the metal wheels were totally unforgiving if you hit a piece of pea gravel or a crack in the road.  But, I loved it, and thought I was California Cool, when I rode it.

One day, I had the board up at the Dead End, and Daniel Taylor was there on his bike.  We messed around for a while, and I complained about how hard it was to get enough speed up to just ride along on the board.  I kept having to push with my foot, and I wanted to just surf along.

So, we got his sister's jump rope, and tied it to the sissy bar of his StingRay.  I stood on the board, holding the rope like a skier behind a boat, and Daniel pedaled his bike away.  It was awesome!  I stood on the board, holding the rope with one hand, using my other outstretched arm to help maintain my balance.  I really felt like I was sidewalk surfin', like the kid in the magazine.

Then, Daniel came to the point where the Dead End intersected Shacklett Drive, and he stopped.  We weren't allowed to ride past that point.  I, however, did not stop.  I had no brakes, and no knowledge of how to stop a board without just bailing off, and I was cooking along at a pretty high rate of speed.

The Rules of Momma couldn't overrule the Laws of Physics, at that point.

I did stop, eventually, not by bailing but by hitting some loose gravel near the side of the road.  Daniel said I turned three complete flips before I hit the ground, but I think he was exagerating.  It couldn't have been more than two and a half, because I landed on my back.  Three flips would have landed me on my stomach.

In the eternal wisdom of youth, we continued surfing behind the bike, that summer, taking turns on the board.  We just aimed for the grassy ditch when we had to stop.  We still turned a few somersaults, but at least we landed in the grass!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again:  I was a dumb little kid.


Friday, June 3, 2011

Wayward Son

In Calvert City, Kentucky, I spent a good portion of my summertime days on the bike.  I was 10 years old, and I had Big Red, so I felt like I could go anywhere.  Lots of days, I would ride the county roads, picking up refundable soft-drink bottles.  When my basket would get full, I would find a store and turn them in for cash.  It was pretty lucrative, as the people of Western Kentucky seemed, at the time, to have no problem with littering the sides of the roads with Coke and Pepsi bottles.

One day, Daddy and I were driving around in his 1967 VW bug.  We were probably going ginseng digging, or something.  Any excuse to take a walk in the woods, if you know what I mean.

We stopped at a little country store, and went in for our own Cokes.  When we walked in, the old guy behind the counter greeted me.

"Got a load of Coke bottles?" he asked.

"No.  I'm just riding around with my daddy," I told him, as I grabbed a drink out of the cooler.

The three of us chit-chatted a little, and then Daddy and I left.  After we got in the car, Daddy turned to me with a look that was partly concern and partly anger.

"Have you been hitch-hiking?" he asked. 

"No," I said.  What a weird question, to me.  I would never even have thought of hitching a ride.

"Well, then, how did that guy in the store know you?" he demanded.

"I ride my bike here, and pick up bottles on the way.  Then, I turn them in here, and go back toward town."

"You ride your bike here?" he asked, skeptically.


Well, come to find out, the big deal was that the store we were at was 15 miles from our house.  Daddy just couldn't conceive of me riding my bike that far.  Neither could I, really.  If I had known it was that far, I would probably have never ridden there.

But, I would meander my way along all morning, before I got there.  It probably took three or four hours of bottle-picking for me to get to the store, and that much longer to get back to town.

That's why I carried sandwiches with me when I left, every morning.

I was informed of the new rule:  I wasn't allowed to ride more than 10 miles from the house.  Of course, I had no odometer, and no way of knowing how far away I had gotten.

Still, the rule made Daddy feel better.  I have no idea if I ever obeyed it.


Thursday, June 2, 2011


The Marin County guys, who get most of the credit for starting the modern-day mountain biking industry, rode old Schwinn Excelsiors (mostly) which they modified to stand up to the rigors of off-roading.  These bikes were usually referred to as "Klunkers".

In 1997, I decided to build my own version of Gary Fisher's Klunker, which he had outfitted with a triple crank from a touring bike, drum brakes, a multi-speed freewheel and derailleurs.  Of course, the older parts that he had used were pretty much impossible to find in those pre-eBay days, so I bought new when I had to.

The triple crank was no problem.  We had an old touring triple in the junk box at the shop.  I ordered new Sachs drum brake hubs, found an old bullmoose-style bar and stem combo, etc.  I hung all of the parts on a 1940s Western Flyer frame that I had picked up at some point.

When it was done, it was a pretty fair facsimile of Fisher's bike, including the 40-pound weight.  But, it rode pretty nicely on the trails.  I actually rode it to the top of Bergen Peak on a club ride, one weekend, because I had loaned my mountain bike to a to a customer at the shop.

It was easy to see why the Marin guys got so excited about their "new sport", back in the day, after riding the Klunker up and down the mountain.  Especially after years of riding single speed bikes and ten-speeds off-road.

It was not too bad, really, even compared to a modern mountain bike.  And, that is one reason I went back to riding a rigid bike.  It makes me feel a little more in touch with the roots of the sport.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Testoterone Poisoning

I had a great deal of love and respect for the kids who worked for me, the last couple of years that I was at Destinations.  We had a good time, together, and we got a lot of work done.  One of the really fun things was, these guys who were 20 years my junior, accepted me as one of their own while still acknowledging that I had things to teach them.

Rubber bands played a large role in the service department at Destinations.  We made rubber band balls, and crossbows and all sorts of things out of the big rubber bands that the bike manufacturers used to secure things in the bike boxes.

One day, I had three or four rubber bands hooked together, and I shot it at Jesse Race.  He grabbed it up, and ran over to me, put the end of it against my chest and pulled back on it.

"Go ahead," I said, "I can take it."

So, he snapped me right in the chest with the big rubber bands.

"Is that all you've got?"  I sneered.

"Do it to me," Jesse said, sticking his chest out.

So, I snapped him.

Well, it became a thing with all of us, to see who could take the most snaps, before crying "Uncle".  We would even pull our shirts off, so that the tee-shirt material wouldn't cushion the blow.

There were many days when we all were walking around with welts on us, as if we had disobeyed an order on an Eighteenth Century British Navy ship.  And, we were all proud of those welts.

Man, I loved that time in my life!